May 13, 2018 will be a date Hamilton Bulldogs fans will never forget.
A 5-4 win over the Sault Ste.Marie Greyhounds in Game 6 of the OHL Championship Series gave the Bulldogs their first OHL Championship.
The Bulldogs were coming off a big 6-4 win in the Soo less than 48 hours before, (their second win at the Essar Centre in the series) and took a 3-2 series lead into the Mother’s Day matinee in-front of 8,663 fans at FirstOntario Centre.
The Greyhounds had a 2-0 lead early in the 2nd period, but the Hamilton comeback began near the midway point of the period. Bulldogs goalie Kaden Fulcher made a big save at one end before Brandon Saigeon scored on a breakaway just moments later. In the late stages of the 2nd, Mackenzie Entwistle tied things up at 2-2 with the Soo responding just over a minute later to give the visitors a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
The Bulldogs came out hungry in the 3rd period and turned the tide. A slapshot from Riley Stillman near the mid-way mark made it 3-3 and then Hamilton’s first lead of the game came three minutes later thanks to a quick wraparound from Robert Thomas that sent FirstOntario Centre into a frenzy. The Bulldogs took a 5-3 lead on a hard-fought empty net goal from Nick Caamano with less than two minutes left and then weathered the storm as the Soo made it 5-4 with 45-seconds left.
“There’s never any quit in this group,” said Bulldogs head coach John Gruden during post-game celebrations. “There’s always challenges with young men when they play this game but all-in-all our guys stuck together when it mattered the most and that’s why we were so good in the third period. I love this group.”
Hamilton’s Robert Thomas had 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points in the post-season and received the Wayne Gretzky ’99’ Award as OHL Playoff MVP.
“We had been down before going into the third period,” said Thomas. “We were confident that we could get the job done. We’ve got a hell of a group and our character is unbelievable.”
Bulldogs netminder Kaden Fulcher made 40 saves in the Game 6 win, holding off the Greyhounds in the third as they sent 18 shots on the Hamilton net for a game total of 44.
“The whole time it was just about keeping us in the game,” said Fulcher. “We were a confident group coming into the third. I know we were down by one, but we knew we could get the job done and I knew I just had to keep them in it.”
The Bulldogs played to an overall playoff record of 16-5, outscoring opponents 91-59 as they took consecutive five-game series wins over Ottawa, Niagara and Kingston before outdoing Sault Ste. Marie in six games.